Saturday, March 17, 2018

Hermantown Art Students Prepare for April Beaners Exhibition, The Illusion of Control

This past Thursday I followed through on an invitation to visit with several students in Robb Quisling's Hermantown High School art class. The students were Haley Zierden, Mya Austin and Eiley Kuhlmey.

The students have titled their April show at Beaners Central  The Illusion of Control. The concepts the students have undertaken to express deal with societal, religious and governmental controls. At the opening on April 5, 6:00-8:00 p.m.,  there will also be a vocal performance by Sophie Peterson at 6:30.

Eiley Kuhlmey's interest in art began in ninth grade. She's found it life-changing. Mya Austin's interests have drawn her to costumes and 3-D design. Haley Zierden produced pieces for the show in several media, including a set of cyanotype photos of her visit to Havana. What impressed me, even more than their learning how to work in a variety of mediums and develop technical facility, was the grasp of conceptual thinking that real artists learn to internalize.

Zierden, who curated this show, shared the following comments on what it would be about. "I wanted to pick a theme that would be relatable to the student population as well as to the adult community. The theme I picked is The Illusion of Control. As budding teenagers, if there's anything we are familiar with, it's control--usually over our decisions and actions. High school is when you really start to feel the pressures of social control, through peer pressure and cultural modeling. This is also often when you start to question the controls and rules you grew up with, put in place by parents, teachers, and other authority figures. Other forms of control seen throughout life and represented in this exhibit are shown in religion, government, culture, and other forms of restrictions put in place by society. Therefore, this is a topic that can be seen throughout the world, across cultures, and in all age groups."

"Art is another form of intelligence, another way to look at the world," one of the other students said.

Mya Austin expressed a mild frustration artists can have when people view their work. "People don't realize that you are telling a story," she said. In other words, many people look at a painting or drawing and see a picture without understanding that it is also a form of communication.

The class instructor Robb Quisling shared how he encourages the students to combine form with ideas, to experiment with various approaches, to try and re-try things until the thought gets fully explored.

The three paintings by Ms. Kuhley aim to challenge an accepted notion in our culture that a woman's value is based on an ideal of beauty. "Girls are taught at an early age that beauty is pain. My art shows how ridiculous this is as an ideology."

The experience brought back to mind some of my own early drawings which were an attempt to express stories, or inner impressions as a reaction to accepted premises of the culture I saw around me.

As I found my way out of the high school afterwards I noticed that student art had been hung in various corridors, perhaps as a way to honor the creative expressions of the students. Most gratifying was knowing that in at least one school district the arts continued to have value as part of the overall curriculum.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it.

Related Links
I first met Robb Quisling at a DAI show he was part of in 2016.
Last year I also wrote about about his exhibition Common Threads at the Washington Galleries.

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